Although it is the Silk Road that captures most of the contemporary attention and discussion, it was in fact spices, not silk, that drove Western Europeans to seek routes to Asia. “Lightweight and durable, spices” writes Roger Crowley in his new history (appropriately entitled Spice), “were the first truly global commodity … they could be worth more than their weight in gold.” 

Canadian lawyer Patrick Brode has written an interesting and fast-moving account of the little-known Allied war crimes and treason trials of Canadian-born Kanao Inouye, known as the Kamloops Kid by the Canadian soldiers who suffered beatings and torture by Inouye and his Japanese confederates in Hong Kong during World War II. It is a tale of war, suffering, racial animosity, inhumane conduct and, Brode believes, partial injustice.

The centrality of Central Asian nomads to world history has, after decades of neglect, more recently become something of a truism. If you’re not up on your Scythians, Saka, kurgans, Xiongnu, deer stones, Pazyryks and the like, there are better places to start than Petya Andreeva’s Fantastic Fauna from China to Crimea, an analysis of the (mostly) iron-age objets-d’art of the peoples of the Eurasian steppe, which is detailed, granular and assumes more than a little familiarity with the peoples and history.

After much of the western world let go of its colonies in the years following World War II, the United States did the opposite in Guam: it not only re-occupied the island, but established a (massive) military base there. The culture in Guam is a melange of the legacy of Spanish colonialism (particularly seen in surnames), indigenous CHamoru (Chamorro) people, and American colonization interrupted by Japanese occupation during WWII. With a total population equivalent to that of a middling US city, it is perhaps not surprising that there has been a dearth of literature from the island. 

Over the course of thirty-seven fragments, an elderly man coming to an understanding of his world tells the “story” of his village: chronicles of a village serves as an indictment of History for what it leaves out. The narrator often offers a curiously romantic view of a pastoral world that is being overtaken by the outside world, and as a celebration/tribute/elegy for his father, mother, and brother. 

Ranjan Adiga’s debut collection Leech and other stories comprises 10 short stories based around the experiences of Nepalis adapting to new worlds, lands and experiences. The majority relate to migration, both internal, with migrants from rural Nepal traveling to try make it in the capital, or abroad, in search of their dream life in America. It is unsurprising that a nation shaped by migration should produce a writer who tackles the subject with such nuance and tenderness.